Inspectors warn of risk to stability of service employing ‘63% agency social workers and managers’

High number of agency social workers in some teams poses risks to ‘improving service’, warns Ofsted

agency social worker, hot desking, office
Photo:WestEnd61/Rex/Shutterstock

Ofsted inspectors have warned that there is “risk” to an improving service because of the number of agency social workers.

In a monitoring inspection of Lancashire’s ‘inadequate’ children’s services, inspectors noted improvements to the council’s response to children in need of help and protection. However, it warned that the streamlined single point of access and Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) were both staffed in the majority by agency workers.

“The local authority plans to establish the current model as a permanent arrangement, but funding for this has not yet been agreed by the council,” Ofsted said

“Although many agency staff have been in the service for some time, and some want to stay, some risk remains regarding the future stability and sustainability of this service.”

Agency staff

Almost two-thirds (63%) of social workers and managers in the MASH and streamlined single point of access teams were agency at the time of the inspection last month. The management structure remained “unclear and is currently reliant on additional temporary capacity,” inspectors found.

Despite the lack of stability, social workers in the MASH had supervision regularly, “even when there are frequent changes in line manager arrangements”.

“Managers appropriately guide social workers to gather further information to inform decision making,” the report said.

“This includes review of case files, gathering information from partner agencies and making contact with parents or carers. These activities result in a timely and effective response to presenting concerns for most children, and their cases are allocated swiftly for support from social work teams or from early help services,” it said.

But the inspection found little evidence to show supervision was used to develop practice or drive performance, adding that the council’s practice model had not been well developed enough to result in consistently good practice.

County councillor Susie Charles, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: “I’m pleased that inspectors feel we are making good progress in improving our children’s services following this latest monitoring inspection.

“They’ve highlighted several areas we’ve improved, including how we handle initial enquiries, improved management oversight of cases and better information sharing.

“We’ve also made good progress in reducing the amount of agency staff we use, so that now only 9% of the children’s services team is made up of agency workers, the lowest this figure has ever been. We aim to reduce this figure to 5% in the future.

“There is still work to do and we’re working very hard to make further improvements before the service is next inspected.”

5 Responses to Inspectors warn of risk to stability of service employing ‘63% agency social workers and managers’

  1. Eboni March 22, 2018 at 5:24 pm #

    Don’t blame agency SW’s that’s way to easy OFSTED look at the underlying issues that have nothing to do with agency staff.

    Agency staff are given heavier caseloads then employed staff. Agency staff are isolated and ignored for training and development. Agency staff arise can arise from disconnected social workers who were exploited when employed. Agency staff regularly work away from their homes for the duration of their placement. Agency staff are social workers and agency staff are not respected. Agency staff are demonised when the issues are not about agency staff. The issues are over and above agency staff. Like Bank nurses and Bank teachers the issues are around the profession senior managers pay cuts treatment of staff lack of a voice and professional disrespect from those that should just know better. OFSTED please do your inspections based on fact not fiction.

  2. Sw111 March 22, 2018 at 6:30 pm #

    Workers go agency only when the management fail to value their permanent staff in majority of the cases as far as I know. Agency workers in some of the local authority are an asset covering sickness and shortage of staff and they manage work pressure.
    Of course I cannot comment about the local authority in question.

  3. Wendiru March 23, 2018 at 9:03 pm #

    As a profession we need to realise people have to make difficult choices because of the financial difficulties they face to ensure the needs of their families are met and one of this choice is going agency. Speaking from personal experience I was once a permanent member of staff who could not afford to pay for the cost of my child care leave alone my mortgage. When i contacted my employer for help the only support they were able to offer me was child care vouchers but this was taken off my personal monthly salary and therefore was not any better off and neither did the vouchers cover even a quarter of my weekly child care cost. Social worker is not a 9:00am to 5:00pm job, you sometimes find yourself working until 10:30 pm and if you going to find someone to pay to look after your child for those extra anti social hours the child care bill alone may not be covered by your salary as a permanent member of staff. Besides when working out your taxes the tax man does not take into account the fact that you had to pay extra for child care or you have a mortgage to pay. This is the true reality of what I was told by the HMRC when I called them to explain my circumstances as a single mother. They advised me to sell off my property and rent what they think was any affordable property which would ha e left me worse off as for sure renting privately is sometimes even more expensive than taking out a mortgage. In light of my personal circumstances Who then can stand there and blame social workers when they go agency? It’s the only way to make ends meet without being a burden to community through claiming benefits or leaving a life that can place your own child at risk.

  4. SW 8787 March 24, 2018 at 6:55 pm #

    Inspectors warn of risk to stability of service employing ‘63% agency social workers and managers’
    High number of agency social workers in some teams poses risks to ‘improving service’, warns Ofsted

    No sure that Ofsted have this right, the LA is question were deemed inadequate at the last inspection. The fact the service is improving is excellent. I would suggest the 63% of agency staff have contributed significantly to this improvement.

  5. Carol March 27, 2018 at 8:47 pm #

    And what would be your plan inspectors?If your looking for stability in social work your going to be waiting a very long time. Permanent staff are leaving in droves across the country.

    Without agency staff the service users would have no service.

    Nothing will ever change. Its never changed in my career.